Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Mindfulness and Self Care: Must Haves During Caregiving Journey

Episode 26

Ep 26-

Rayna Neises, your host, interviews Nancy Bouwens.  Nancy is a writer, life coach, cancer survivor, and caregiver.  Nancy and her husband moved in with her aging mother and shares the following insights regarding her caregiving experience:

  • Simply spending time with your loved one lets them know that they are valuable, they matter, and they are loved.
  • Self-care is important and fills the bucket back up: taking a walk; reading; knitting; meeting friends at a restaurant or for coffee; feeding your creative side with new recipes, crafts, or activities you have not done in a while.
  • When your loved one gets down, just keep speaking life into them.  Be encouraging and let them know that they matter . . . even if they do not receive it, there is power in your words!
  • Be mindful in each moment no matter the task and do not take anything for granted.
  • Nurturing and setting boundaries help to preserve all relationships involved . . . self, loved one, and significant other.  It also allows for there to be strong, healthy relations once the caregiving journey is over.
  • Stay filled up and take care of yourself during the journey.  When you sense burnout, be willing to take a step back, draw boundaries, and listen to yourself.

Transcript

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Rayna Neises: 

Welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host, and today I have a special guest Nancy Bouwens. Nancy is a writer Certified Life Coach and cancer survivor. She’s also a wife, mom, Nana, and primary caregiver for her aging mom and is currently writing her first book Every Moment Holy: A Sacred Adventure. As “the Intentional Life coach” she has coached women around the world for more than 10 years, walking beside them as they design lives they love, face challenges with courage, and walk out what it means to embrace their unique God-given purpose, to impact their corner of the world. She’s passionate about equipping and encouraging women to give themselves permission to dream big, re-imagine life, and believe in possibility again. Nancy loves to experience new places and meet new faces. Gathering friends around her table is one of her favorite things to do. She also believes that we’re better together. Kindness is still possible in the midst of a global pandemic. Our words matter now, more than ever, and God is good. Always. Welcome, Nancy. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Thank you, Rayna. I’m excited to be here. It’s an honor to spend this time with you.

Rayna Neises: 

So let’s just start off with sharing with our listeners a little bit about your caregiving journey.

Nancy Bouwens: 

My caregiving journey started about three years ago. My mom came to us and asked us if we would consider moving in with her so that she could stay in her own home as she aged. She now is 92 and a half. When we moved down and she was still driving and getting her own groceries and cooking, but she could see on the horizon that a lot of that was going to be shifting and changing. So we made the decision to do that. She lives in a condo, we live in her basement and we are there for her to take care of her. And it’s, it’s been, it’ll be four years this fall. So

Rayna Neises: 

It’s amazing. Yeah, I’m sure it has. It’s amazing on two fronts there, that first of all, that she had the foresight to say, I know I’m going to need this. So many times as we’re caring for aging parents, that’s hard for them to do. So that’s great. That you had the relationship that she was able to say, would you do this, then for you and your husband to step into that. It’s just amazing. So many times, as I talk to people who are finding themselves in that place. It’s hard, it’s hard to make them decision to step in and say, Yes, I can do this. I can move, especially move into her home and give up your home. So, what a blessing to be able to have each other and at the same time, a lot of work, I’m sure.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Yeah, it’s a lot, but we’re one day at a time for sure.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, and I’m sure it’s also helpful to have your husband there with you just to be able to kind of tag-team it.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Yeah, he’s a great support. And he deserves sainthood when we’re get through this. I shouldn’t think of this. That’s not what I meant. He does. He’s great. He spends every day when he comes home from work, he’ll set up her TV room as we call it and spend time with her. Doesn’t matter if he’s worked a 15 hour day, he’ll go up and sit with his mother-in-law watch the Detroit tigers if they’re on watch Jeopardy. If they’re not on, you know, Wheel of Fortune as an alternative, I mean, whatever, he’ll just sit there and spend time with her and our hope and prayer in doing this is that she sees how valuable she is, that she matters and how loved she is. I can’t change where she’s at, but I can try to bring that to her. I don’t always do it well, but, that’s my prayer is that she will sense how special she is.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s amazing. I think that’s so important. We forget that oftentimes in dealing with older people, we focus only on the tasks and we forget about the person. So I love that that’s your focus because the person and the love that we have for them is all the motivation we need. We just have to keep it in sight. So the other piece of that that’s really important is just taking care of you. How do you find self-care time and what things are helpful to you?

Nancy Bouwens: 

You know, that’s probably an area that is one that I struggle the most. In addition to caring for my mom, I also work four days a week outside the home, in addition to the coaching that I do. So, my time, there’s not a lot left over at the beginning nor the end of the day. I work at getting up early to try to take a walk with my little dog before my day starts. I try to do a little bit of reading, honestly, right now with the whole pandemic and working from home and all of that. You think that would be easier because I’m there, but there’s actually a whole lot more that that’s going on around us because of that. I tell people, I feel like I’m juggling pumpkin, and not just juggling, juggling pumpkin, and things that are so big that I don’t want to drop any of them, but if I don’t catch them right. Or do them right it can be crushing. And so that’s probably one of the areas that I really struggle in. And one of the things I’d love to do is spend time with my friends and my family and have people over, as you mentioned in the intro, but during most of the year I’m not able to do that because I can’t have people over in her home, so we have to do it in a different way. We’ll meet people at a restaurant or rent a conference room somewhere, and you’ll just try to have coffee with people that we care about. That’s kind of an area that I struggle with because I need something to feed myself. I work at being creative, do knitting I’m a writer, spend time with people, take a walk. I like to try new recipes. So things that feed that creative side of me are ways that I kind of fill that bucket back up again.

Rayna Neises: 

So important, we forget about the fact that that creativity does fill out. Yes. And when we are busy with all the Todos, we forget about those creatives things. And I love that you’re listing some great things. Listeners, if you haven’t tried doing some new cooking or a new craft or a new activity, something you haven’t done in a while, that’s definitely a way to help fill your cup. So thinking about what brings you joy can definitely be a part of that self-care. That’s so important and to keep burnouts away.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Yes. Yeah, absolutely.

Rayna Neises: 

Some of the ways that you’re keeping burnout sounds like taking care of yourself physically, as well as some of those creative things.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Absolutely. Because when I start feeling burned out, then I start to feel resentful, not of my mom, but resentful of time that I wish for. But then if I didn’t have her, then I’d wish for that. So it’s that the guilt, the guilt tug of war.

Rayna Neises: 

Tug of war that’s a great word to describe it because there is that desire to have your life back and the things that you love, your space and the opportunity to be the hostess that you are at the same time, knowing that having those things back means that she will have gone on.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Right. Right. And then to feel guilty that sometimes. I don’t want to say that. I wish for that because that’s not what I mean, but she tells me all the time, I just want to die. I just want to die. I just want to die. And what do you say to that? You know, it’s like, mom just don’t talk like that and interested, but you don’t understand. Like, I try to understand, but I can’t understand. I’m not 92 and a half, but I want her to still see that she matters. That’s sometimes the biggest struggle is she doesn’t, she doesn’t see that. And so my part of what I try to do is just keep speaking life into her and encouraging her. Even when she doesn’t receive it, which is 99.9% of the time she pushes back. I keep trying, because I know that there’s life and power in our words, and I just continuing to choose to speak life into her. Sometimes I want to just not speak anything but not life. Sometimes what I’d like to say and what I say are two completely different things. I’ll just be in real here.

Rayna Neises: 

Yeah, that’s truthful for all of us and everybody who’s been in that boat knows what that feels like. So that’s just being human and thanks for being real with us. One of the things that you talk about is just dreaming big with your clients. So how do you keep your dreams alive in this season of unknown and of sacrifice?

Nancy Bouwens: 

One of the things I really am purposeful about is relationships. So that’s like, super important to me, that people that I surround myself with. And so, when I have a dream, like writing my book or reaching out or traveling or doing different things, I try to surround myself with people like-minded people, people who will challenge me when I, when I’m weary and people who will speak life into me. To keep my dreams alive, because right now I feel like I’m treading water. You know, we’ll dogs, a headlamp, headlamp headless. And then I feel like I just like barely breathing here and, not knowing, how long the season will last. But like you said, when it’s over, then it means that she’s no longer here. And then that’s a whole nother process. But as far as dreaming big, I am determined that no matter what happens that I am not going to lose sight of what God has called me to do and how he’s created me to be. I am going to choose to live a life without regret, having gone through a cancer journey, having gone through health challenges prior to that, I don’t want to ever take this life for granted. And so sometimes it’s just in the small things. That’s one of the reasons I started writing the book, you know, Every Moment Holy, I mean, everything we do, whether it’s helping my mom take a shower, making her chicken soup for the 40 thousands of time, or I’m taking my dog for a walk or spending time with my grandchildren, whatever it is, there’s holiness in all of it. And to see that what we do with our hands, where our feet go, the things that we speak, the things that we think of, it all matters. And if I try to keep sight of that, it keeps me grounded. I run to Jesus every day. If I didn’t have him, I don’t know how I would continue to do any of it. He’s the one who helps me keep dreaming big, even when I don’t see it, even when it feels like a desert. He’s still faithful and he’s given me a call and the dream and a desire. Sometimes even just journeying along other women that I’m coaching and working with, helping them to dream all my goodness. Just refreshes my soul too. Well then the giving back, I guess maybe that’s the best way to say it.

Rayna Neises: 

As a person who is farther down the path, than you are, and has been where you are right now I think you said so many wise things, learning to be mindful in the moment really is the only way that we make it through. It’s the way that we make it through with joy, the way that we make it through with intentionality in everything. I think being a caregiver is a large pumpkin, but knowing that you have other pumpkins that have to be cared for, can’t be dropped. We don’t want them to smash. That’s so important because sometimes I meet caregivers who have poured everything only in that caregiving role. And once they successfully walk their loved one home, they have nothing left. And what I hear is the passion in you is to do it well, to walk mom all the way home, but then also have amazing dreams and continued amazing relationships once she’s gone. And that’s a message I’m passionate about because no, no regrets is such an important thing because this is a time it’s easy to lose ourselves in. And there was just a lot of wisdom in your answer in that. I think that’s part of what I really want listeners to hear is there is a way to do this. There is a way to do this and still have more than one pumpkin in air.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Yeah.

Rayna Neises: 

So you mentioned earlier your husband and what a great member of your team he is. And I think that’s so important to realize that our spouses are a part of the team and there is so much that they bring to the relationship, not only for you, encouragement and strength, but also for your mom. So tell us a little bit more about your husband’s role and how that impacts you and her.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Well, he’s very supportive of our decision. When she asked me about this. She said, I have a question for you, but I wanted to talk to you. I don’t want it to be in front of Terry too. And I said, okay, what could this be? You know, I had no idea. And, cause she asked me and I said to her, she goes, but I want you to talk to him. I want you to ask him before you answer me. I said, well, absolutely, but I. I’m already pretty sure of what he’s wanting to say because I know him. Now I’m blessed that I have a supportive husband that will walk with me through that or through this season. And I’m grateful for him, but there, there is a cost. There’s a cost to our relationship, our personal time on times when we would maybe normally sit down and watch a movie together, I’m upstairs helping her get ready for bed. I’m helping her take out the trash, I’m helping her vacuum. I mean, there’s a cost and sometimes it cost him more than what I thought. I think I realized in what he thought it would cost. So we’ve had some pretty in-depth conversations about how do we stay connected when you were talking earlier about, you know when you walk mom home and that season ends. It’s a little bit to me, like when we’re raising our children and you pour everything into them for 18 years, however long that looks, and then they all go off to college and move out and get married. And you think, huh? And what do I want to be when I grow up? They’re all gone. And that’s what this season feels a little bit like to me. I don’t know if it’s going to feel like an empty nest thing when she’s no longer with us, but I want to make sure that I spend time with my husband and take care of him in spite of, or especially because of the season that he’s giving me with her. And one of the ways we do that is we try to take a lot of walks together. We love to travel. Our travel time is limited because I have to make myself available for my mom. There is no backup. My sister is not able to help. She would, if she could, that she herself has, homebound. So she can’t help. So it’s just me. And so when we travel, we have somebody check in on her or whatever, but it doesn’t mean planning adventures a little difficult, but what we do in a stat is it’s like, all right, let’s grab a picnic, lunch, get some subs. Let’s go watch the sunset, we tried to still be spontaneous. we try to get together with friends as much as we can. And sometimes we just try to sit up in bed, talk for a little bit before we fall asleep. Even if it’s telling my mom, well, I’m going to go down now and I’m going to spend it time with Terry and she doesn’t always want me to do that? She wants me to stay with her. when she had hip surgery a few months ago, I slept upstairs for quite a few weeks. And finally, I said, I’m gonna go back and she was afraid she didn’t want to be alone. She was, then it made me feel like, Oh, maybe I should. Okay. I said, I’ll give you a few more nights, but by Friday I’m going to go downstairs and I’m going to spend, you know, if you need me, I’m here. I guess the best way to say it is having some boundaries. Not just with, myself and what I allow, but boundaries for her and, being firm about that, even when there’s the pushback because he matters. And when all this has been walked to completion, I want our marriage to still be strong. I don’t want to be left with crumbles. That have to be put back together again, I don’t want broken pieces and I can see how, if we weren’t intentional about that and purposeful about that time, we would, it would shatter us. It would shatter us and we have a strong marriage. We’ve been through a lot together, but it would, it would be hard.

Rayna Neises: 

Such wisdom in that, because it is understanding that that relationship is one of the pumpkins and it has to stay in the air and it doesn’t mean that you have to spend as much time on that pumpkin. It means that you have to be as intentional with that pumpkin as you are with everything else.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Right.

Rayna Neises: 

And as you said before, working on top of those relationships, both with your mom and your husband and then those friends that feed you and are such value to you and your writing. There’s just a lot of different pieces. And I think that’s where being an intentional life coach, definitely works in your favor of realizing I’m walking this out every day. Cause if I don’t, it’s going to be ugly.

Nancy Bouwens: 

right. It will be ugly. And sometimes I have to, as they say, preach to the choir, you know, I have to take my own wisdom and my own medicine and the things that I speak into the lives of people around me and those that God gives me an opportunity to speak into. I need to sometimes have a sit down with myself and say, okay, Toots, let’s listen up here. You need to think about this, this, and this. That’s the, one of the best ways I do that is I journal, I have more journals in a box that I don’t know what I want done with when I die someday, but I think they should be burned. Yeah. But there I’ve got so much in there, but I’ll just journal, I’ll start writing and just like doing a brain dump, but I guess getting it all out. And sometimes that’s the best way for me to just pass up things. I’m just grateful for the grace and the strength of, my husband and my Jesus who walked with me. Without him, I could not, we could not do this. and again, my prayer is always that momma will know that she matters and that she’s precious. And, I want to do this season well for her.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s beautiful. I love that. So as we wrap up if there was one nugget that you can give our listeners, what would it be something that you would want to have them walk away with?

Nancy Bouwens: 

I think the one thing if I could speak anything, it would be to say, you need to fill up. You have to stay filled up and take care of yourself. In the midst of whatever you’re walking through, because if you don’t, there will be nothing left for you to give to the people around you and the relationships that matter most are going to shatter. You won’t be able to do what you do. You’re going to live with guilt, all of those things. I know that wasn’t one thing, but it’s just take care of yourself. Draw boundaries, listen to yourself when you realize that you’re starting to burn out and be willing to take a step back.

Rayna Neises: 

Wise words we hear from most caregivers that are out of the season say that, but I love that you in the middle of a season, realize that self- care is so important and can’t be replaced. Tied to all those emotions that we don’t want to feel. Is if we are not caring for ourselves and we start to feel the bitterness, we start to feel the guilt. Those are warning signs that we’re not doing a good job of caring for ourselves. So we really do have to take a step back and figure out what it is. We need to be able to continue in this season so we can walk our loved one all the way home. Thank you so much, Nancy, for being here today, it was amazing to have a frank conversation with someone who’s in the trenches today.

Nancy Bouwens: 

Thank you, Rayna it was a delight. Appreciate you having me on the show.

Rayna Neises: 

You can stay in touch with Nancy at NancyBouwens.com. Again, she’s the Intentional Life Coach and obviously has amazing wisdom to share. So if you’d like to reach out and connect with Nancy, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you. Just to reminder listeners. A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, be sure to contact your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

 

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Resources

The Intentional Life~ Nancy Bouwens

Nancy Bouwens

Nancy Bouwens

The Intentional Life

 

Nancy is a writer, certified life coach, and cancer survivor. She is also a wife, mom, nana and primary caregiver for her aging mom and is currently writing my first book “Every Moment Holy- a Sacred Adventure”

As “The Intentional Life Coach” she has coached women around the world for more than ten years, walking beside them as they design lives they love, face challenges with courage, and walk out what it means to embrace their unique God-given purpose to impact their corner of the world. Nancy is passionate about equipping and encouraging women to give themselves permission to dream big, reimagine life, and believe in possibility again.

Experiencing new places, meeting new faces, and gathering friends around her table is one of her favorite things to do. Nancy also believe we are better together, kindness is still possible in the midst of a global pandemic, our words matter now more than ever and God is good. Always.

Your turn, share your thoughts . . .

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

Your Host

An ICF Certified Coach, Pod-caster, Author & Speaker, offers encouragement, support and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected

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4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

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